December key to Manchester City title chances says Roberto Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes the month of December could indicate whether his team has a realistic chance of the title.

While the Italian remains adamant Chelsea will retain their crown he is anxious to take it to the wire.

First up tomorrow, though, are Salzburg with a place in the knockout phase of the Europa League in sight.

It is start of hectic schedule for a club anxious to compete in the Champions League next season.

City will play seven matches in December - five in the league - and 10 games in different competitions in the next six weeks.

Mancini said: "This month will be very important for us as we have some difficult games against strong teams.

"During this spell we can understand what we must do for the future. It will be very tough because we play every three days.

"But first we must try to beat Salzburg and go through to the next stage. Then we play just two games in February.

"That will give us time to concentrate on the league and that could be an important month too."

Mancini intends to tinker with his side after the 1-1 draw against Stoke at the weekend as he looks to complete the double over Salzburg.

Whether he will hand a start to fit-again Wayne Bridge remains to be seen after speaking of his frustration at the full-back's inability to stay free of injury.

Mancini said: "He is available to play. The problem he has is he is always injured. Every game he plays he cannot finish. It is usually a hamstring or a groin problem.

"He played in Salzburg but after 70 minutes he was injured. He played against Blackpool and was injured. He played against Poznan and was injured. It is impossible he can play because of this.

"Every time he was available he played. This week he is available. He is an important part of our group as he has been unlucky.

"We will change some players for tomorrow as we are playing two games in a few days but it will still be a good team."

Pablo Zabaleta is available again after suspension while Yaya Toure could also come into contention after missing the Stoke game with a migraine. Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to recover in time from a groin problem.

Some City fans showed their displeasure after the last home game which ended in a goalless draw against Birmingham City.

But Mancini is relaxed about the situation.

He said: "We must respect the supporters. Our job is to improve and win for them. That is what we always want to do.

"The teams that come here all have players who get behind the ball. But we have still scored a lot of goals at home. We know it is important to win tomorrow if we want to go through to the next stage."